Thursday, 8 March 2012
The Adventures of Tintin
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg
By Alan Bacchus
International audiences embraced this film to the tune of $395 million. Sadly, American audiences did not. Perhaps people didn’t know what Tintin was. Rin Tin Tin the dog maybe? A cartoon for kids maybe? Either way, most of America missed out on one of the best films of the year, a great adventure story from an old master in a new medium.
What’s remarkable is the authorship Spielberg injects into the film. Despite working in a sterile motion capture studio without an actual camera and in animation, nothing looks fake or cartoonish. In fact, it’s arguably the most photorealistic animated film I’ve seen. Other than the faces of the characters, Tintin is a real world.
The backstory of the project is now well known, first optioned by Spielberg in the 1980s. While making Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Spielberg put the film on hold until he could find a way to shoot it without making it another Indy Jones film. And so, when Spielberg teamed up with Peter Jackson's Weta Studios, which created Gollum in Lord of the Rings, Tintin the film was born, as was the Jackson/Spielberg collaboration.
The story of the intrepid young amateur sleuth, who, through the purchase of a model ship at a local market, incites a globetrotting adventure for lost treasure is lean and mean action filmmaking. Writers Peter Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish honour the fun in discovering the mystery of the Lost Unicorn ship and crafting delightful pot-boiler characters to support the heroes. For instance, the moustache twirling villain, Rackham, is a deliciously upper class snob out for revenge; the affable Thomson/Thompson cops feel like a comic duo plucked out of the silent era; and of course Tintin's trusty four legged partner, Snowy the dog, is part of a long tradition of cinematic dog sidekicks.
As such, despite the most advanced new millennium technology, the film still feels like old fashioned swashbuckling adventure this side of a Michael Curtiz/Errol Flynn.
The Blu-ray special features are clear to point out what separates this film from other motion capture pictures, including Avatar, Spielberg’s mise-en-scene, and they don’t get lost in the technological mumbo jumbo. Tintin looks and feels like a Steven Spielberg film, from the delightful comedic action right down to the composition, lighting and pacing that are distinct to the man.
And if you’re scared off by the thought of watching another kids’ film, I was pleasantly surprised to see as much guns, blood, violence and questionable behaviour as in any of the Indiana Jones films. Hell, Tintin is barely out of his teenage years and he carries his own pistol! Captain Haddock’s alcoholism, which serves as a major plotting device, is the main hurdle in his character arc and recalls the character traits of a politically incorrect bygone era.
In the end, Tintin still feels like an Indiana Jones film. However, it’s not a knock-off but rather a revival of that youthful energy in escapist entertainment Spielberg used to have as a young director. In the past 20 years, every one of Spielberg’s attempts at recreating the fun of Raiders, ET or Jaws has either failed or under-delivered. Films like Minority Report and War of the Worlds were failed by weak attempts at adult characterizations and adult themes. There’s nothing mature or serious about Tintin. It’s full-tilt retro action cinema at its finest.
The Adventures of Tintin is available on Blu-ray from Paramount Home Entertainment.